Lone Legion - behind the high fence
It used to fly a swastika over its fortress home but a New Zealand flag now flutters at the Lone Legion headquarters in Gascoigne St. MAIKE VAN DER HEIDE and ANNA WALLIS try to find out more about the Blenheim motorcycle club that has come to prominence after a shooting in the town earlier this month.
But for many people the club's presence in Marlborough has been decidedly low key. Take the media go-to guy for comment on gangs, Greg Newbold.
The former jailbird with a doctorate in criminology says he had never heard of Lone Legion until the September 15 shooting.
The gang has been Blenheim based for more than 20 years and has had numerous encounters with the law, perhaps most famously when a front end loader was used to push a hole through its perimeter fence.
The Lone Legion Brotherhood Motorcycle Club was formed in the United States.
Its American website says the organisation is about dedication, respect and brotherhood.
Its creed calls on members to "demonstrate proper respect to all riders and to respect true brotherhood to all we meet on the road".
Surprisingly, residents of Gascoigne St say they have seen few bikes in the neighbourhood in recent years.
In the past 10 years the group has sporadically made the headlines.
The New Zealand flag flying above its headquarters when Carl MacDonald was shot replaced a swastika that in 1997 was taken down after complaints, including one from the national president of the Returned Servicemen's Association (RSA).
At the time, Constable Russell Smith is reported to have convinced the residents of the property it would be in their best interests to remove the flag if they wanted to present a good public image.
A year later police had to use a front end loader to smash through the fence at the front of the gang's property in a raid that involved 41 officers.
The armed offenders squad were used in addition to local police to storm the house. The raid resulted in one arrest.
The raid followed an earlier incident involving bikies from the North Island, including members of the Outcasts, Satan's Slaves and Sinn Fein.
The out-of-towners had apparently driven "like maniacs" after getting off the inter-islander ferry to reach the Blenheim house.
After that incident police said they had no intention of removing the fence, though it "would be good to see it come down", one acting senior sergeant was quoted as saying.
He also said people in the neighbourhood - at that time - were intimidated by a house "with a 10 foot fence and barbed wire".
As the fence is now a bit less than that, at some point it must have been lowered to within the two-metre limit.
Police have also swooped on the house in recent years to recover $28,000 in outstanding fines.
Four years ago a man at the Lone Legion headquarters was found guilty of possessing an offensive weapon when he answered a knock at the door wielding a knife.
The incident happened when police accompanied court bailiffs to the house with a warrant to seize property.
The gang house, at 18 Gascoigne St, is listed in the New Zealand Companies register as being the registered office for a company named Legionnaire Limited.
The named director is Peter Christopher Tait, one of the men charged with Carl MacDonald's killing.
A former director was Tony Roger Alexander, who resigned in October 2005 but remained listed as a shareholder.
Police say he used to be a member of the Lone Legion gang but cannot say if he still is.
Jarrod Gilbert, who spent years studying the rise and development of gangs in New Zealand and directed a UK-led documentary on Kiwi gangs doesn't know a lot about the Lone Legion.
But he does have a bit more to say than Greg Newbold.
He describes the gang as unique because it's the only gang in a small town and has managed to keep other gangs out.
Gangs have tried to establish in Blenheim but failed through "an unlikely alliance" of police and Lone Legion members, says Mr Gilbert.
In a later clarification of the remark, he says the separate spheres of influence of the police and Lone Legion have kept other gangs out.
Membership of the Lone Legion could be as little as a handful of people, Mr Gilbert says, but the gang has nevertheless joined an alliance known as The Federation or, more recently, the A-Team.
The alliance involves eight "Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs" (OMCGs) and includes the Outcasts, the Epitaph Riders, the Forty-Fives, the Southern Vikings, Satan's Slaves, Sinn Fein, Nelson gang the Lost Breed and the Lone Legion gangs.
"(Lone Legion) have got a good reputation on the scene," Mr Gilbert says. "That cluster of gangs are seen as fairly elite."
Mr Gilbert says that's what The Federation established itself for: "It's a long ride from Christchurch to Wellington and it's nice to stop in between."
Saturday's shooting won't be doing the gang's usual low profile any good, he says.
"It disrupts activity ? not just on criminal activity, but on their lives."
However, he expects that as the shooting did not involve rival patched gang members and arrests were made soon afterwards, things will "fade away very quickly".
Mr Gilbert says it is not unusual for gang members to form such companies and it is not necessarily crime-related.
"A lot of these guys work.
"It keeps the tax man off their back."
(Blenheim police were asked to comment on Mr Gilbert's claims but were unable to do so before press time.)"
A report on New Zealand gangs in a Police Association newspaper last year said the alliance was most likely part of a plan to lower gang profiles and take activities underground.
According to previous press reports, Lone Legion is a member of the "White Federation" of motorcycle gangs, the others being Hell's Angels and Highway 61.
All have strong ties to United States bikie or biker groups as they are known there.
Trawl through the internet and it becomes obvious where the club's history lies.
The Blenheim shooting has gone straight to not only numerous motorbike websites but has also been copied to white supremist websites including White Boy Society and White Trash Network.
Blenheim's position as a gateway to the south and its closeness to the inter island ferries has been a feature of several reports on the gang.
Ten years ago the Devil's Henchman was thought to be considering a move into the town, up until then the home of the Lone legion - alone.
The Marlborough Express attempted to speak to a number of men formerly associated with Lone Legion about the gang. None were interested in talking, except to say they have never been members of the gang.
The Marlborough Express